Friday 21 October 2011

Tapping the digital trends for Agriculture sector

In the year 2000 or so, an imagination of having a mobile phone was even considered to be “building castle in the air”. It was due to out reach of the product and services to the common man.
However, over the years, Mobile phone has become an amenable product to the common man and now; it is with rich to even daily wage earner.
In India, mobile penetration compare to other countries is fast and satisfactory. It is due to affordable cost of the handset and different module of pricing technique which acted in favor of general user.
 While there was substantial price reduction in electronic communication device and at the same time call rate had been drastically reduced. Another aspect is new connection become much faster and a total module shift from sole post paid system to pre-paid system.
Now, there are many players competing for subscriber base so is competitive pricing and the final winner is subscriber.
In India, total mobile subscriber base is 851.70 million at the end of June, 2011 as per Wikipedia report. In India, cell phone penetration would reach 97 per cent by 2014 according to media reports.
In the world, countries such as America, China, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina and many more countries are reported to have good subscriber base.
In India, mobile infrastructure is expanding very fast.  Now, virtually every block leaving some remote places is equipped with mobile tower for receiving the signal.
Another changing trend is 2G service is shifting towards 3G services. Of course, there are many developed countries that have already started using 4G services which is said to more precise in data sharing however, in India too, it would eventually come.
Now, coming to the tapping of digital trends in best use of the service of the mankind, there is no doubt that now, there is absolutely no far or nearer concept as far as communication is concerned.
 Now, you can have discussion with your friends and relative of farthest corner and it is not new to any one.
But, what I am interested to is resource utilization perhaps for the rural people.  Now, the rural artisan, farmer and daily wage earner do carry mobile phones for communication and now-a-day with enhanced services like games and music etc.
Since, our vast rural population is depending on agriculture farming, an approach in this line should be worked out.
 This electronic device which till now has been acting as communication device and entertainer should be utilized in more fruitful manner for bringing  more productivity in the rural area.
Now, precisely, how can this device help in bringing rural productivity? Take the case of farming, agriculture farming in most of the rural areas is subsistence type and farming communities are not well informed in latest agricultural farming techniques due to some weak extension mechanism. Now, this is where, this mobile phone can help create a difference in rural productivity.
However, if the things to come into success, many line department should work hand in hand for providing latest information to the farmer communities.
The followings department should come forward and help in revolutionary change:

Metrology department:

This is the department to provide daily weather updates to the public. This department will also provide daily weather updates to the agriculture department for ensuring the department to prepare the cropping scheme for a particular area.
 In addition, Metrological department will also provide weather forecast data to the agriculture department for preparation of pest and disease incidence forecast.

Revenue department:

Revenue department shall provide basic land information data of a particular region to the Agriculture department indicating types of land and land processor.
 This information will be needed by the agriculture department for preparation of different set cropping module suited to the particular region based on the specific rainfall pattern, soil condition and other facilities available in such region for better land use pattern.

Irrigation department:

 This department will act in accordance with their plan and policy but shall provide timely information to the agriculture department for ensuring the availability of irrigation facility to the particular tracts of land.


This department shall ensure smooth facilitation of plan and program of agriculture department and line department and it will act as catalyst for proper implementation of Government program and policy.

Agriculture department:

It is the department to play primary role in agriculture technology innovation and spreading of new technology or otherwise agriculture technology transfer to the farming communities.
Agriculture department will be having professionals in every sector office at block level and, they will be having several other inventories related to farming sector.
Agricultural professional being advisor to the farming communities would suggest necessary action in the event of any field level problems and also new technology transfer to farmers. Further more, the department also supplies seed materials, fertilizers, and pesticides on affordable rates to the farmers.
 The role of the agriculture department is also to formulate the specific module based on specific local condition and cropping pattern.
In addition, the department will be having geographic data of particular place indicating the suitability of different crops and present usage etc.
Now, the work is again with the agriculture professional. They will have to visit to all such regions discuss with the farmers every pros and cons of new methods of technology transfer to the farming communities.
Now, the next is agriculture professional will input specific data to the centralized information about the present condition reflecting problem and forecasting the future prospect or problems.

Information and technology department:

This department will act as carrier of information to the target group in more precise and timely manner based on the module and programming of the Agriculture department.
Based on data base available with agriculture department, Information and technology department shall provide mass SMS to the farmers as per the specific list provided to them.
On the basis of SMS information, farmer can keep updated information and act accordingly for furtherance of agriculture farming.
Of course, in this case, localized or regional language may be used for better communication and effectiveness. This is how the new digital trend should be tap for more productive use.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Apis dorsata; No more Honey Please!

Apis dorsata, the biggest and most aggressive honey bee was my most familiar insects since my childhood to college days due to its omnipresence almost all over India and its swelling sting that I encountered.
 I had a fair share of experience with this most wonderful insect since my childhood days because of its aggressive mode and also its importance to the people.  
I still enjoy some of the finest moment that I used to observe during blooming season of different fruit crops like of Litchi, Pomelo, Mango and Ber in our orchard and how hundreds different kinds of insect including Apis dorsata creates unique sound while hovering the flowers.
 It was really nice to see and observe thousand of different insects including this Apis dorasata bee collecting nectar and pollen thus pollinating the flowers.
  But, this has become history now, as no such activities of Apis dorsata could be found in my area. In Tripura, there was the time, Apia dorsata used to be found abundantly in the forest and also, in village side.
This Apis dorsata bee used to forage on different kinds of flowers of forest and field crops. People used to collect honey from Apis dorsata bee hive frequently during the season.
 But, these days I do not see anyone speaking about collection of honey this is because now, there is no existence of Apis dorsata bee that used to be found in village side earlier.
In addition to Apis dorsata, another species of bee that is Apis indica which is comparatively smaller in size and can be domesticated was also used to be found abundantly in our area but again there is no existence of Apis indica in my area. This Apis indica used to dwell or make bee hive in cracks and crevices of building and trees.
Another small honey producing insect is Apis melipona under hymenoptera group which was prevalent in our area but, again this small insect is also not found now-a-days.
As far as Apis melipona is concerned, I have practical experience of working closely during my childhood days. I had reared Apis melipona in mud pot which was really enjoying that I still remember and enjoy those moment. But, everything has changed; the total ecosystem has changed.
There are few points that has affected greatly in alienating the honey bee population in Tripura and else where are briefly pointed below:-

Depletion of Forest coverage thus affecting Bee Forage.

 In Tripura, decade age total forest coverage was reported to be more than 60 percent but I do not know the present statistics. It has sharply declined as per some reports.
 This depletion of Forest coverage has not only brought down the timber yielding trees  but also several other forest species which was life support to the  honey bees for collection of nectar and pollen.
Honey bees collect nectar and pollen from several species of forest flower, crawlers, shrubs and herbs etc. There were a time people used to collect more than twenty kilograms of honey from a massive bee hive of Apis dorsata.
 As we know, number of colony size is directly proportional to the availability of nectar and pollen so is storage of honey in bee hive.
 This is indicative that there were several nectar and pollen yielding flowers available in the forest of Tripura at that time. But, decade’s exploitation of forest has completely deserted those valuable species thus affecting the honey bees’ population.

Forest fire

Another devastating reason for declining of Apis dorsata population in the state is perhaps forest fire. During the month of March and April when forest trees sheds leaves, forest coverage is dry, fire creates lots of devastation to the flora and fauna.
 It has greatly impacted on the Apis dorsata honey bees and many other fauna of forest species.
To relate again, the way people collect or extract honey from honey comb is also really devastating; it is by smoking and fire through which all the bees are driven out and in the process maximum bees become the casualty of smoke and fire.
Another critical aspect is whole beehive is disturbed in the process of honey collection. When honey is extracted by the people, either the whole bee hive is grounded or whole collection of honey in the hive is squeezed out.
In former case, collapse of all and in latter case, honey bees rarely comes back to old comb due to exhaustion of whole portion of honey stored in the bee hive.

Lack of forage

In Tripura, major crop being Rice which  is highly self pollinated crop does not yield nectar or attract honey bees. Moreover, during Rabi season, the cropping pattern does not look so promising in terms of easy flow of nectar for the honey bees. All these factors has slowly pushed this once formidable honey bees into oblivion and chances for their coming back also does not look so bright.

Unscrupulous use of pesticides.

Another most deleterious factor for diminishing of honey bees is in fact unscrupulous use of chemical pesticides in different nectar yielding crops.
 Pesticides poising is cause major concern especially where commercial bee keeping has come up on the periphery of field crops but unscrupulous usage of chemical pesticides has been reported to be killing the whole colony of a bee hive.
Of course, in Tripura this has partly influenced but other factors  as mentioned have that played significant roles against the honey bee population. The immediate affect of honey bee population that has directly impacted are as follows:-
1) Villagers  are deprived of natural honey
2)A loss of valuable and beneficial insect.
3)Affects on pollination of different cross pollinated crops and other forest species.
In my opinion, to regain the old glory, we have to be very much careful in preserving the natural forest, creating awareness to the people for  handling this insects and judicious use of pesticides would  help in restoration of this beneficial insect.

Monday 17 October 2011

Agro processing, the growth engine of agriculture sector

On the other day, when I was buying some fruits from local vendor, I could see few imported fruit products from countries like America, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
 In the fruit shop, American Apple, packaged Tamarind from Thailand and Date palm from Saudi Arabia were prominently displayed and sold in higher prices compare to local produce.
 Of course, that was not the first time, I saw the imported fruit products from other countries but this time I was co-relating with our local fruits to imported products.
I was thinking especially about Tamarind, the fruit we give little importance has come all the way from Thailand and sold in exorbitant price compare to locally available Tamarind which fetches pittance compare to value added Tamarind from Thailand.
Similarly, Apple and Date palm from America and Saudi Arabia; how they have got to every country and places, helping the producers and marketers in economic returns.
 Whereas, the local fruits how they have long been overlooked over the years. Had they been processed, packaged and marketed, there would have been huge opportunity in terms of economic returns and employment generation.
 The growth of agriculture sector would have been better, if agro processing were prioritized and implemented efficiently.
But, present situation does not look very promising; the local fruits especially Pineapple and Jackfruit have never been fully utilized for harnessing their full potentiality consequentially, these once abundant fruits have started declining in the state.
But, there is still huge market potentiality of local fruits either in processed or fresh form in the local, national and international markets.
One small example would give a clear idea as to how these local fruits commands huge opportunities; in Tripura, a whole Pineapple fruit of queen variety is sold in hardly three to four rupees during season whereas, in Bangaluru(then Bangalore) one piece of Pineapple is sold in two to three rupees.
This price variation reflects the huge opportunity and indicates the chances for further exploring this wide gap of regional price variation.
Similarly, a medium sized Jackfruit is sold locally in ten to fifteen rupees whereas; same sized fruit fetches more than one hundred rupees in neighboring Bangladesh.
 But, these fruit crops have never been harnessed for full potentiality and more importantly, Jackfruit has never been given its due as fruit of importance.
 Although, Jackfruit is considered to be the wholesome fruit having it utility starts from tender stage to ripened stage.
In the season, these fruit crops rots in the orchards, footpath as if, these were produced such a huge or surplus quantities that it finds no buyer; it is a seer inattention that these growth engine faces.
We are pursuing in several fields for future endeavor rather than utilizing the best resources available and harnessing the best opportunities. Of course, this pace of dilly-dallying in agro processing is not the case only to the Tripura alone; it is the overall scenario of India.
In India, agro processing is meager two to three per cent whereas, a small country like Thailand is making huge difference in this sector.
In the World, Thailand, Brazil, Philippines and America commands maximum in terms of agro produce processing.
 In my opinion, agriculture sector supported by strong agro processing units would be the next growth engine in India by creating huge employment opportunity and earning substantial share in the national and international markets.
The next growth momentum is waiting to happen but for this to happen, we have to take pro-active steps and work concertedly for minimizing the wide gap between agriculture produce and agro processing sector.